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Rams

Rams’ defense has zero complaints after 34-0 rout of the Cardinals

A giant blue and white Rams helmet was painted on the middle of the Coliseum turf Sunday, a major identity stamp for a team that spent the offseason remaking the roster into a Super Bowl contender.

The Rams traded for star cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. They signed free-agent defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. And then they traded for receiver Brandin Cooks.

The moves no doubt left other NFL teams — especially in the NFC West — wondering what the Rams would look like if all the pieces came together.

They got a glimpse Sunday.

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The Rams shut out the Arizona Cardinals 34-0 before an estimated crowd of 60,000.

A week after stifling the Oakland Raiders in a “Monday Night Football” opener, the Rams completely dominated the Cardinals en route to their first 2-0 start since 2001.

Todd Gurley rushed for three touchdowns and Jared Goff passed for 354 yards and a touchdown, but Sunday’s game was a statement and a message: The Rams defense might be better than projected.

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“You put a bunch of alpha dogs on one defense like that, man, it’s either going to be good or it’s going to be terrible,” said Talib, an 11th-year pro. “And this one turned out good.”

It has been so far.

The Rams have surrendered only 13 points, none in their last six quarters.

“You can’t complain about a donut,” Suh said, referring to zero points allowed against the Cardinals.

“We did everything we wanted,” middle linebacker Cory Littleton said. “You can’t beat a shutout.”

Sunday’s shutout was the Rams’ first since Week 7 of last season, when they blanked the Cardinals 33-0 in a “home” game at Twickenham Stadium in London.

In that rout, the Rams effectively ended the Cardinals season by breaking the arm of now-retired quarterback Carson Palmer.

Oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford escaped Sunday with no broken bones, but the Rams limited him to 90 yards passing and gave up only five first downs. They also shut down running back David Johnson.

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“It’s hard to play these guys when you’re on second and third and long,” Bradford said.

The Cardinals did not cross the midfield until the last play of the game.

“I can’t remember the time I’ve seen a defense play that complete from whistle to whistle from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.

So the Rams’ performance — and potential to play even better — might affect the confidence of opponents.

“I feel like we can get even better,” said tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year. “I mean, that’s the scary thing.”

The defense’s performance appeared to inspire the offense, which is averaging 33.5 points a game, nearly four more than last season’s league-leading average.

“They’re impressive right now,” Goff said of the defense, adding, “You want them to keep it going and want to make sure no one’s head gets too big, which I don’t think it will.

“We said it during training camp: I’d hate to have to go against them. … They do a great job and that was on display.”

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Said Gurley: “Our job is to score points but … if the defense don’t give up any points, that’s all that matters.”

The offense, however, appeared to take a couple of big steps.

With kicker Greg Zuerlein sidelined because of a groin injury sustained during pregame warmups, the Rams scored touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line. They also got a big lift from punter Johnny Hekker, who stepped in and kicked a 20-yard field goal.

And after just missing on long passes to Cooks and Robert Woods against the Raiders, Goff connected with Cooks on a 57-yard strike.

Cooks caught seven passes for 159 yards.

“You kind of felt that rhythm start to happen,” Goff said. “Some of those deep things, some of the other stuff across the field where he’s able to make those plays with his speed, and just how good he is with his hands.”

Goff also found Woods and Cooper Kupp six times each.

And McVay finally got tight ends involved, with Gerald Everett catching a pass and Tyler Higbee capping the scoring with a touchdown reception.

The Rams now turn their attention to next Sunday’s game against the Chargers at the Coliseum.

Players said they would enjoy the victory over the Cardinals, but not get ahead of themselves.

“We still making steps,” Peters said. “It’s only game two.”

Donald said the Rams would not get comfortable.

But he acknowledged how good they might become.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein


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